HOME / Table of Contents = Civilizations - Cultures - Areas - Regions - Prehistory
Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)

Ancient Ashur -- Aur -- Modern Qalat Sharqat

The Site of Ashur and the Tigris River (UNESCO)

Archaeological site of ancient Assyria on the Tigris River 60 miles South of Mosul. It was settled in the fourth millennium BC and was the earliest capital of Assyria until replaced by Calah in the ninth century BC. It was destroyed by the Medes in 614 BC.

Excavation of the city began in 1903 under a German team led by Walter Andrae. The old capital of Assyria lies naturally protected on a rock promontory on the bank of the River Tigris in northern Mesopotamia. The earliest levels excavated belong to the first half of the 3rd millennium BC. The remains of a pre-Sargonid temple dedicated to the goddess Ishtar were excavated and Sumerian statues were found; this being among the earliest evidence of Sumerian contact outside the southern plain.

It is thought that Ashur might originally have been a trading post. For over 2000 years successive kings built and rebuilt the fortifications, temple and palace complexes. Inscriptions associated with these monuments have helped in the construction of the chronology of the site. The fortifications were rebuilt on many occasions -- the latest under Shalmaneser III (859-824 BC) -- who added a new outer wall. Very little is known about the secular buildings at Ashur as more work has been done in the temple and palace complex with the three large ziggurats dominating the city. The largest was 60 metres square and was completed by Shamsi Adad I (circa 1800 BC). It was originally dedicated to Enlil but later to the God Ashur; the dedication of the other temples also changed through time.

Next to the ziggurats the Old Palace featured a labyrinth of rectangular chambers and storerooms with private shrines and courtyards. A later New Palace of which only the foundations remain was built by Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244-1208 BC) who also built a residential suburb outside the city. Representations on cylinder seals suggest that many buildings might have had parapets and towers. Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) moved the capital to Calah and by 614 BC the city of Ashur had fallen to the Median army ... (AHSFC)

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium